Thyroid canceris the ninth most common tumor in the world and affects about 3,000 people in Spain each year.
Survival decreases after the age of 50.
A lump in the neck, frequent snoring and difficulty in swallowing, are among the main symptoms.
Thyroid cancer is the ninth most common tumor in the world and affects some 3,000 people in Spain each year. According to the Spanish Society of Endocrinology and Nutrition (SEEN), its incidence has increased in recent years. However, mortality has not increased: the number of deaths from throid cancer in Spain has fallen by 15% in recent years, according to data from the Spanish Society of Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery (SEORL-CCC).
In this type of cancer, age is a risk factor: after the age of 50 the survival curve drops sharply in comparison with patients under 40, the age group in which there are fewer deaths as a result of this tumor.
What is thyroid cancer?
According to the Mayo Clinic, thyroid cancer is a proliferation of cells that begins in the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck that produces hormones that regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight.
Thyroid cancer usually does not cause any symptoms at first. However, as it progresses, it can cause signs and symptoms, such as swelling in the neck, voice changes and difficulty swallowing.
There are several types of thyroid cancer. Most types grow slowly, although some can be very aggressive. Most thyroid cancers can be cured with proper treatment.
Thyroid cancer rates appear to be on the rise, not so much because their incidence has increased, but because they are being detected earlier. The increase may be due to improved imaging technology that makes it possible to find small thyroid cancers on CT and MRI scans that were originally done for other pathologies.
What are the symptoms?
Most thyroid cancers do not cause symptoms in the early stages of the disease. As thyroid cancer grows, it may cause these changes:
A lump (nodule) that can be felt or seen through the skin of the neck.
Discomfort around the neck; for example with shirts, high collars, scarves…
Voice changes, with frequent hoarseness.
Difficulty in swallowing.
Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck.
Pain in the neck and throat.
Why does it happen?
Thyroid cancer begins when cells in the thyroid develop changes in their DNA. These mutations cause the cells to grow and multiply rapidly. The cells with mutations continue to live when healthy cells die naturally. The accumulating cells form a mass called a tumor.
The tumor may grow to invade nearby tissues and may metastasize to lymph nodes in the neck. Sometimes the cancer cells can spread beyond the neck to the lungs, bones and other parts of the body.
Although it is known how the disease occurs, it is not known what causes the DNA changes that lead to cancer.
Some people are more predisposed to the disease than others. Some of the factors that may increase the risk of thyroid cancer include the following:
Sex. Cancer of the thyroid gland is more common in women than in men. Experts believe this may be related to the hormone estrogen. People who are female at birth usually have higher levels of estrogen in their bodies.
Radiation exposure. Radiation therapy treatments to the head and neck increase the risk of developing the disease.
Genetic predisposition. Some genetic syndromes that increase the risk of thyroid cancer are hereditary medullary thyroid cancer, multiple endocrine neoplasias, Cowden syndrome, and familial adenomatous polyposis. Types of thyroid cancer that can sometimes be hereditary are medullary thyroid cancer and papillary thyroid cancer.